The Need for Self-Leadership
It has been said that we overestimate what we can achieve in a day, and underestimate what we can achieve in a lifetime.
But when we overestimate what we can do in the limited number of hours we have during the day, we become overwhelmed. There’s simply too much to do in too little time.
We feel inundated. We feel time-pressured. We feel like throwing our hands in the air and giving up.
Overwhelm over a long period of time, however, can lead to bigger problems like chronic stress, ingrained feelings of failure, and long-term dissatisfaction with life.
Unfortunately, this is a common experience for a lot of people
Unable to find a solution to this, we work harder and harder, thinking that if we just keep doing what we’ve done we will eventually get to where we want.
Little do we realise that doing the same thing over and over only gets the same result.
Which is usually nowhere, struggling to ‘be someone’ or ‘get somewhere’.
Feeling more and more overwhelmed because we are running and running and running like hamsters on a wheel, trying to achieve more than we are physically capable of doing, and end up staying exactly where we are.
Worse, we end the day physically tired and mentally exhausted, dreading the next day because the work we didn’t complete today will pile onto the workload for tomorrow.
“Things will only get worse before they get worse,” we say to ourselves.
Overloaded, we lurch from day to day, just managing to get by, wondering if it’s ever going to end. Wondering if we are ever going to get respite and much-needed rest. Wondering how the heck we ever got ourselves into this situation in the first place.
So we are overcome with feelings of powerlessness and futility. We feel stuck in a rut, we feel stagnant.
We feel as though we are unable to get over the hump, unable to live the life we have always wanted and hoped for.
For all our hard work and efforts, all we have succeeded in doing is dig ourselves into a hole in the cemetery of lost dreams.
“Why bother?” we ask ourselves. “It doesn’t matter how hard I work, I still can’t get ahead. There’s no point.”
What Stops You?
This mindset is self-defeating because it puts limits on who you think you are and what you believe you can achieve.
Worse, this mindset is a white flag, a surrender to life, an acceptance of mediocrity and averageness.
Which, on the surface might seem okay and better than most of the world who live in poverty and struggle every day for the basics of life.
But this mindset can only lead to one end—to stagnation and a smothering of the human spirit.
So we start believing that this is as good as it gets. We give up striving for anything we once hoped of doing.
We settle for less and justify our capitulation by claiming there was nothing more that could have been done. It’s just the way it is.
We then park the bus and stop chasing the dream. We stop listening to our hopes and desires, we poison our passions with counter-reasoning and logic (aka scepticism), and we learn to live without hope and learn to get comfortable with nagging frustration.
We lose the joy of life. We become the living dead.
What happens next, though, is disastrous: we deliberately and fearfully curtail our plans for the future, fully undermining what we are truly capable of achieving.
Then we teach our children to do the same thing, and the sins of the father are passed onto the child.
We teach them to make the same mistakes we made. We teach them to put up with their lot and to not complain about it. This becomes our legacy, a legacy of self-defeat.
You might be thinking that this assumption is a little over the top and is simply not true because there are things beyond our control that impact what we can and cannot do in our lives.
You might be thinking that you had no choice into which socioeconomic situation you were born, or for that matter your gender, race, or country.
These factors impact your opportunity for change and are completely beyond your sphere of influence.
But I want you to think about what really stops you from achieving? I want you to think about what really prevents you from fulfilling your true potential? What really limits your success?
For most, it isn’t anything to do with your socioeconomic situation, your gender, race, or country of birth. In truth, it’s something you have complete and total control over:
How you think!
Why? Because the focus of your thoughts determines your perspective, and therefore what you perceive.
In other words, that upon which you place your attention determines your experience—how you focus determines your perception of ‘what is’, which becomes your reality.
As the Budha said:
With your thoughts you create your world.
Therefore, if you are not living the life you want, if you are not achieving the results you wished and hoped for, if you are unable to transition from ineffectiveness to effectiveness, you need to refine how you focus and how you think.
You need to take control of your mind and take responsibility for what you focus your attention on.
Failure to do so will inevitably lead to dysfunctional thoughts, reactive emotions, and self-limiting behaviours—perfect ingredients for stagnation, non-achievement, and perpetual failure.
The Essence of Self-Leadership
You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it, as Einstein said.
The answer, therefore, isn’t to work harder at doing the same things that haven’t elevated you to where you want to go. Rather, it is to work smarter.
You need to work less on your external world, and to work more on your internal world. You need to ready yourself and work on your mind before you work on your tasks.
As the saying goes:
Get yourself right first, and everything else will fall into place.
But that is the essential point: we must first get ourselves right.
A builder gets the foundation right before he builds the walls of the house. A doctor educates herself before treating her first patient. A sailor mends his sails before venturing out to sea.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the blade.
You might well be the strongest lumberjack in the woods, but if your tools are blunt then you are at a severe disadvantage.
This is the essence of self-leadership, to spend more time on sharpening your blade—your mind—than on the tasks at hand.